Hanoi, Old Quarter .. Culture Shock!
After spending two months in Thailand, we got so used to the Thai food, people, traffic, weather, culture and infrastructure that it felt like home. However we were ready for new impressions in Asia, so we booked a flight to Vietnam. Like most times I didn’t do a lot of research before coming here, because I like to be surprised and form my own opinion without being influenced by others. Maurice on the other hand loves to do research and decided to book an apartment right in the middle of the Old Quarter. We arrived around 9 PM and got a warm welcome by Tony. He was super friendly and gave us instructions on how to get to a supermarket nearby, because we wanted to get some groceries before going to sleep. Now this is where our first encounter with the streets, vendors and traffic happened.
How can you walk in these streets without getting killed?
Let me try to explain how Jimmy and I fell into a small culture shock that first night.
Yes, there are sidewalks all over Old Quarter, but they are taken over by lots of vendors, bikes and really small chairs where friends and family are enjoying a meal or drinks together. This means that you have to walk on the street where cars, cyclists, motorbikes and cyclos (three-wheel bicycle taxi) are driving like crazy. Everybody is hunking horns and nobody really seems to worry about traffic rules. I wondered how you can walk in these streets without getting killed? What are we doing here? There where garbage bags everywhere, food was being dumped on the streets and the noise was almost overwhelming. I tried to get to an ATM, but had to walk through a party of people eating on the small chairs. I couldn’t believe how crazy it was – in my Western way of looking at it. As if this wasn’t enough of a shock, Maurice then told us to look out for the tiles that covered the gutter, because some might not be as steady – meaning you could fall in to a dirty gutter. OMG. Luckily we survived this first encounter and I went to bed wondering what other surprises this country would have in store for us.
A few days later
The following two days we discovered Hanoi the way we like most…. by walking from one coffee place to another. We understand a bit more about the way the traffic works so we feel more confident while walking the streets. It is amazing how easily we adapt and get used to new ways and places.
Hanoi is such an interesting town and I am really intrigued by the way people live here. My next blog will be about that…. (Hopefully … cause until now I haven’t taken enough time to write about all the things we are experiencing on this journey. Just absorbing, marveling and enjoying).